Cloud Computing, Fog Architecture and Why Senior Communities Should Care

Why edge computing and fog architecture are a natural for senior living communities.

The idea of remote computing and data storage has been around for a few decades, but in recent years has become more widely used as computing and storage costs plummeted and communication bandwidth has sky-rocketed. In fact, we now have a name for it, Cloud Computing. As a result, it often now makes sense for businesses to outsource the storage, management and processing of their data to others who drive scale by building giant computing centers, stuffed with thousands of servers.

One industry where cloud computing is playing an increasingly important role is in senior living communities. Managing data using the cloud is helping senior living operators best meet employee and resident needs, while helping lower costs.

An example of a common current cloud-based solution for senior living communities is an EMR (electronic medical record) system, where this is no hardware or enterprise software installation, but a secure and up-to-date software system accessible from anywhere. Other benefits from cloud solutions can include reducing implementation costs and better IT support service. Yet, while moving key computing and information storage tasks to the cloud makes complete sense for lots of things, it doesn’t always make sense for everything. This is particularly true in situations where immediate action is required and/or when those functions need to continue to operate even when the Internet —or your connection to it—is down.

Cloud computing was recently in the news with the outage of Amazon Web Services (AWS) on February 28, when thousands of websites, systems and entire companies came to a screeching halt when service went down. And while the AWS situation is certainly not a common occurrence, each of us have all too often experienced how fickle Wi-Fi and Internet systems can be whether in our homes or at our place of business.

For those systems or devices that are dependent on the cloud, the reality is that they cease to operate when the “internet” is down. If any part of this system-to-the-cloud functionality is down, your system is also down.

Latency—Not So Simple

Latency (or lag), that can last tens of seconds between the system/device calling for an action and the action occurring, can also be a significant issue. Take for example the simple process of turning on a smart light, one that is supposed to turn on when a resident is getting out of bed. Having that light turn on 20 to 30 seconds later than expected is simply not of the same value.

This is where “edge” computing and “fog” architecture shine for senior living communities. Edge processing means putting at least some of the computing smarts at the “edge—in a resident’s apartment/home in this case. The good news is that with processing costs dramatically down, powerful processing capabilities can be integrated directly in residents’ apartments within senior living communities. If designed correctly, the system is aware of the status of every system and smart device at any instant, thereby not only eliminating the latencies, but also capable of operating even when the “internet” is down.

However, in some instances—especially if the task requires significant computing power and there is no need for immediacy—the cloud is still the more appropriate solution. For our example, when looking at patterns of daily living that may lead to improved care for senior living communities, it makes sense to run these kinds of deep analytics in the cloud. And thus, the term “fog” comes into play, as the system is designed to operate using both edge and cloud computing, like a fog, from the ground to the sky.

K4Connect is a big believer in edge computing and the fog architecture. It’s why we build all our products, including K4Community, based on our patented K/Platform and why we work closely with technology investment partners such as Intel®. It allows us to bring the best computing power to bear for those we serve, both at the edge and in the cloud.

scott-portrait_webF. Scott Moody is Co-Founder, CEO, and Chief Client Advocate, K4Connect.

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